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Leeds United 2 - 0 Everton

Half-time: 2 - 0

Everton Logo
FA Carling Premiership 2000-01 – Game #1
3pm Saturday 19 August 2000
Elland Road, Leeds
Att: 40,010
« Manchester City (h) Ref: Dermot Gallagher Charlton Athletic (h) »
[ Matchday Calendar ] League Position: 19th [ Results & Table ]
Francis Jeffers


The season opener finally arrived, and it looked pretty enticing on paper:  highly rated Leeds United v highly altered Everton.  

Everton entered this match on the wave of tremendous pre-season anticipation following a series of astounding moves by the increasingly respected Walter Smith in the transfer market, culminating with the return of Duncan Ferguson. 

But it turned out that Everton were not that altered after all, with the big names and proven goal-scorers starting on the bench.  Goal-poacher Joe-Max Moore was rested till the second half after his transatlantic exploits mid-week in the World Cup qualifiers, scoring twice for USA.

Both Leeds and Everton had injury worries.  Despite the pre-season hype and excitement in which Walter Smith signed eight new players, Everton started without NINE senior players, and didn't look that much different than last season.

Mark Hughes was closest to scoring early on, with a trade-mark volley that flew just wide.  Then David Unsworth nearly scored with a tremendous free-kick that flew just over the bar.  But Leeds were soon ahead after some slack Everton marking on a corner, Smith glancing the ball home through a stationary defence.  

Leeds then took a strangle-hold on the game, and the inevitable second goal came before half-time, again from a corner.  Gerrard brilliantly parried a Kelly volley as the defence again stood and watched another corner, but Smith was on hand to nod the rebound into the empty net.  By half-time, Everton were being run ragged and all eyes were on Walter Smith to do something!

But he did nothing until 57 mins had gone.  Then, Duncan Ferguson finally came on to a great reception and Everton started to play better football, soon to be followed by Joe-Max Moore and then Gascoigne.   But, despite improving and playing some neat possession football, they could not break the resolute Leeds defence.



Leeds United: Smith (16', 37')
EVERTON: S WatsonPistoneNyarko;
Subs: FergusonGascoigne
   LINEUPS  Subs Not Used 
Leeds United: Martyn, Kelly, Harte, Dacourt, Radebe, Woodgate, Bridges (79' Huckerby), Viduka, Bowyer, Smith, Bakke (79' Mills). Robinson, Molenaar, G Evans.
EVERTON: Gerrard; S Watson, Weir, Unsworth, Pistone; Nyarko, S Hughes (57' Ferguson), Ball, Gemmill (74' Gascoigne); Jeffers, M Hughes (64' Moore).
Unavailable: Dunne, Gravesen (suspended); Alexandersson, Campbell, Cleland, Gough,
Myhre, Pembridge, Xavier (injured).
Simonsen, Cadamarteri.
   Playing Strips  Formations
Leeds United: White shirts; white shorts; white socks. 4-3-3
EVERTON: Royal Blue shirts; blue shorts; blue socks. 4-4-2; 4-3-3
   Yellow Cards  Red Cards
Leeds United: Bakke (40'), Woodgate (77')
EVERTON: S Watson (30'), Nyarko (40'), Jeffers (65')


Guy McEvoy The Footy Test
Paul Collyer Jurnos go AWOL
Boose All is not lost
Rob K Get yer tits out, Gazza!
Kevin O'Keefe No shame in losing here
Mickey Blue Eyes Sheepshaggers
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Smith double gives Leeds right start
by James Mossop
THE SUNDAY TIMES O'Leary sparks hotshot Smith
by Louise Taylor
THE TIMES Gascoigne reduced to walk-on part
by Oliver Holt
THE INDEPENDENT Link to Match Report
THE OBSERVER Link to Football Unlimited
THE GUARDIAN Link to Football Unlimited
DAILY POST Link to EFC News Report

LIVERPOOL ECHO Link to EFC News Report

EVERTON FC SITE Link to the Official Match Report

SPORTING LIFE Link to PA Sports Match Report
SOCCERNET Link to SoccerNet Match Report
CARLINGNET Link to CarlingNet Match Report

 The Footy Test
Guy McEvoy
Excited?  I haven't had as much anticipation about a new season since the Summer of '95.  I took the new girly along to this one.  Nowadays Leeds is my local game, so I thought I'd give her 'the footy test' just to see if there is any point carrying on with her.  She's about to see a whole heap less of me at weekends (and that could be a problem seeing as I work away in the week), so I thought I'd see if she 'understands'.

The surprise of our team was in the choice of wide men.  Gemmill on the right and Bally on the left.  Other than that, it was as expected: S Watson, Unsworth, Weir and Pistone at the back; S Hughes and Nyarko in the centre; Jeffers and M Hughes up front.

We started well.  It seemed like only moments had gone when Sparky sent a volley whistling over.  As spectacular as the connection was, I can't help think that keeping it simpler would have seen it buried.  The head-start that could've made a difference wasn't to be.

Evertonians were in good voice.  This year they'd moved us out the corner (which must be the worst view in the league excepting Old Trafford) and shoved their own fans in.  We had a half of the South Stand.  New songs heard (though not catching on yet) included an Nyarko one.  It's that Dean Martin number; 'Nyarko - oh oh, Nyarko, woh woh oh oh - he plays for Everton, he is an African'... then something else .... 'Nyarko - oh oh' etc.

Leeds were attacking the opposite end during the first half so my view of the two goals was limited to vague shapes in the middle distance.  In any case, my early start meant I'd had a couple more shandies than normal pre kick-off so I'll not go dishing out blame when I can't remember much about the first.  What I can say is that there was nothing could be done about the second.  It was a screamer of a volley from a corner right from the edge of the box and, but for a cracking save from Gerrard, would have been first in the hat for goal of the season.  Smith was too fast with the rebound though so Gerrard's instincts didn't get the reward they deserved.

The other distraction for me in the first half was the row between two Evertonians sitting in the row in front.  The lads were moaners shouting down everything we did, saving particular stick for Michael Ball, and the bloke sitting next to them finally cracked.  You hear the argument 10 times a season, but not usually on the first game:

"For fuck's sake, they're wearing a blue shirt, why don't you support them"; 
"I am supporting them but if someone's playing shite I'll say so"; 
"Give him a chance the season's only half an hour in, you've decided he's crap and only have shite to say about him he's playing well"; 
"I've paid for my ticket, I'll say what I like",
.... and so on.

I never join in these rows cos, whilst in principle I firmly believe you should support the team wholeheartedly and unreservedly at the match and do all the bitching afterwards, I know in the past I've lost it.  Clause Thomson, for some reason, springs to mind.  Anyway, what got me about these moaners was the targeting of Ball.  The lad played very well.  It was criticism for the sake of it.  On one occasion a player took the ball past him and raced down the flank.  Pistone was utterly AWOL, so Ball turned and raced full pelt virtually the entire half to close the man back down. "For fucks sake, Ball. 45 yards and not a challenge." came the moan. Some fans stun me.

Half time, two nil.

Second half was more of the same.  Everton played well, but this Leeds team are a good one, and already comfortable with each other.  They had the edge throughout and we didn't really threaten to put ourselves back in it.  The good work we did in build-ups was let down by a reluctance to shoot and a less than sharp looking Jeffers.  Hughes played his holding role perfectly, it was Jeffers who let the partnership down.

Eventually Smith decided it was time to make a change.  My head tells me the come-back is madness, but I still couldn't stop myself, along with virtually the rest of the stand, cheering as if we'd scored a goal when the big man came on.  Duncan, I've invested so much mental energy in waiting for you to come good and despite my head telling me not to, I've got a feeling I'm going to go through it all again.  For the love of God, please don't let me down.

Not long after there was another good reception for Kebab man.

We picked up the play a little.  Duncan got stuck in, Gazza tried to make the play a little more elaborate.  Another debutante that continues to catch the eye in Nyarko.  When the rest of the team has tuned into this bloke's higher wavelength, we could have a real star on our hands here.

The debutante who for me disappointed was Watson, but then, first game I'll give him a chance.

The introduction of Joe-Max Moore was the last chuck of the dice, but if anything Leeds still looked as likely to extend their lead as we did get one back.  Indeed, I'd swear that one Unsworth challenge should have given them a penalty and one Gerrard save was absolute super-human.

So that was that.  In truth, a fair result.  However, it was no disgrace to us this is a good Leeds team, if we can play consistently as we did yesterday then we will be good enough to see off half the top-flight clubs.  If we can step up a gear then who knows?

Anyway, you're all wondering if the lady passed the footy test.  Yes she did.  She thoroughly enjoyed it.  I took her to some pubs and then for a meal after the match, careful to make sure I got her back in time for Match of the Day.  I then, can you believe, fell asleep in the middle of a Hanson monologue and next thing I know it's Sunday morning and I'm still on the Sofa only, on my own.  So she passed my footy test with flying colours I've sinking feeling I failed hers hands down.

Up to Reports Index ]

 Jurnos go AWOL
Paul Collyer
Anybody who picked up a newspaper on Saturday would no doubt have been thoroughly depressed by the time they had read our report.  I was.  Then I remembered I actually went to the same match and that the journalists involved obviously spent 90 minutes at the bar.

We are gonna be better than we were last season.  OK, so are some other teams but lets look at the evidence presented on Saturday.

Both sides were somewhat short of being full strength, Leeds missed the awesome Kewell, plus Wilcox and McPhail while Everton missed Alexandersson, Gravesen, Gough and Campbell.

We started very well, with Gemmill supplying Sparky Hughes with a bouncing cross which he volleyed about an inch over the bar from 6 yards.  Should have scored, but a good move all the same.  We looked good, with Unsworth scraping the paint off the near post with a free-kick and Jeffers shooting straight at the keeper when a curler would have nestled.  Nyarko was drawing gasps of appreciation from the blues fans as it became apparent that he is on a completely different level from anyone else in our team.  The guy is a joy to watch, although he should have walked for an off-the-ball kick at Bakke.

Just as my hopes were getting up, we concede a schoolboy goal.  A short corner is taken quickly, the ball is whipped into the area and Smith stoops to glance it past Gerrard.  Crap goal, Smith was totally unmarked and we just watched it happen.  Gough's presence may have made a difference but we may have a problem in terms of defensive leadership in his absence.

We looked lively despite the setback but it wasn't long before Leeds finished the game with a piece of brilliance.  Bowyer swings the corner to the edge of the area and Harte cracks a spectacular volley which Gerrard saves brilliantly.  Unfortunately the predator Smith gets the rebound on his head from a yard, 2-0.  No arguments here, it was a great set piece.

The second half was always gonna be an uphill struggle.  In the first minute we forced a corner and Jeffers had a header kicked off the line while Leeds had a couple more opportunities in the shape of a borderline penalty appeal and a Viduka header forcing a cracking save from Gerrard.  The half-fit Ferguson came on and showed no little skill in a slightly deeper role, and even set up Jeffers with a threaded ball behind the defence.  Unfortunately Franny scuffed his shot after rounding Martyn and it was again cleared off the line.

Enter Gazza.  Whatever people say about him, he has an amazing football brain.  How many players can come on with 13 minutes remaining and immediately pick up the rhythm and pace of a game?  We started to look belatedly as if we would score a consolation, and Gazza himself was very unlucky with a spectacular drive which almost knocked out Harte as it sped towards the top corner.  I can see where Walter is coming from with this signing on this evidence.

So we lost, but I'd put it down to a 'home advantage' win.  If the same teams had met at Goodison we could just as easily won 2-0 ourselves.  Leeds are a good side and Alan Smith a fantastic prospect but they will be a totally different proposition when Kewell returns from the Olympics, and that's why they will be in the top 5 again.


  • Gerrard 8 - Two fantastic saves - one couldn't prevent a goal 
  • Watson 7 - maybe at fault for the first goal but will definitely solve our right back problem 
  • Pistone 7 - Will solve our left back problem, got frustrated with.... 
  • Ball 6 - Surely selected with the words "Go on and prove it then" ringing in his ears. Technically good, and very tidy but could have been sent off for 2 x-rated lunges and left Pistone exposed badly on various occasions as he went wondering from his left sided midfield position. I wonder if he'd cut it in central midfield ? 
  • Unsworth 6 - average 
  • Weir 6 - average - wasn't exposed for pace though ( not that Viduka has much ) 
  • Gemmill 6 - willing performance out of position on the right, but Alexandersson should make a big difference. Scot's selection over Danny C suggests we may need to buy specialist cover for this position 
  • Nyarko 8 - Languid, ultra skilful and makes everything look easy. Is gonna be a sensation. 
  • Hughes S 6 - Needs to start imposing himself this season - has the talent. 
  • Jeffers 5 - off colour, but denied by 2 goal line clearances 
  • Hughes M 7 - Sparky held the ball up well dc ;-)
  • Ferguson 6 - Give him a couple of weeks and he'll be right ( assuming he avoids injury ).
  • Gascoigne 7 - How long can he last?  He can still pull the strings but 13 minutes isn't enough.  Must be careful not to dwell on the ball in his own half 
  • Moore 5 - not at the races today.  Appears too lightweight for a midfield role in the Premiership.  I'd like to see him up front with Dunc for a couple of games.

Overall 6 - I'm confident we will improve over the next couple of months and finish somewhere between 6th and 10th.

 Up to Reports Index ]
 All is not lost
As usual for the opening game of the season, Evertonians gathered in numbers, highly optimistic, and ready to welcome the dawn of a new age.  As usual, within 45 minutes, the drawing board was in use again.  

No doubt the usual suspects of Littlejohn, Capeling etc will wax lyrical about the struggle ahead and the scoreline today does little to suggest otherwise.  However, it wasn't like that.  Honest. 

For the opening 20 minutes, Everton controlled this game.  The sharp, crisp passing of Nyarko, Stephen Hughes and even on occasions Scott Gemmill created opening after opening as the Leeds midfield, bolstered by the addition of Dacourt, struggled to keep up.  

Nyarko, maintained his pre-season form and, at this rate, will indeed be the national bargain of the season that the friendlies suggested he may be.  The chances, as so often is the case, came and went, notably for Mark Hughes who was spoon-fed by Gemmill and from eight yards out chose to adjust his body for a trademark, both feet off the floor volley, when a header looked relatively straightforward.

Michael Ball, playing a somewhat unfamiliar role on the left side of midfield, worked tirelessly to support the others and initially it was a case of so far so good.  In defence, the absence of Gough was covered by Unsworth who although he looked solid enough, still seems unable to resist the hoof upfield, thus surrendering possession with regularity.  

Pistone, in my opinion, was a revelation.  Quick, strong in the tackle and excellent distribution.  Watson, however, was not.  Leeds' first goal came following a short corner.  Watson was, err, absent, leaving time and space for the cross which Smith, glanced passed the helpless Gerrard.

Nevertheless, the pattern of the game remained largely unchanged, with the Blues continuing to have a significant share of the possession, and some reasonable half chances.  However, Leeds' second, when a smartly worked corner, cutely volleyed by Harte was saved excellently by Gerrard but leaving Smith on hand to tap in.  Bugger!  

Basically, that was that.  Everton continued to work quite well, one or two chances were created, particularly when Jeffers rounded Martyn only to see his softly hit shot (which probably wouldn't have reached the goal anyway) cleared by Radebe.  

The introduction of Ferguson and later Gascoigne were predictably greeted with much euphoria but, although both showed good touches, their combined effect was not enough to turn things around.  Both looked reasonably fit although in the case of Gazza, not exactly lightening anymore, he will have to adapt and actually pass the ball after his dummies have wrong-footed his opponents, instead of waiting for them to reappear and nick the ball from behind him. 

For my part, as disappointed as I am with the result, the performance (in what was probably one of our four most difficult away games) was such as to leave me still optimistic for the season.  All is not lost, but if we are not sitting with six points in the bag by this time next Saturday, it may as well be.

Player Ratings (by Dom)

  • Gerrard - 6 - I've still not seen the two goals on TV which were at the other end of the ground to us.  Wonder save for the second and nothing he could do with the rebound.  The Smith header probably looked worse than it was from my position. Competent otherwise.
  • Watson S - 5 - Not totally convinced, a few good forward runs, a couple of awful crosses, at fault for 1st goal, the dozy twat.
  • Pistone - 6 - Good debut, sharp, good tackling, good passing, heads it well.
  • Weir - 6 - Average game
  • Unsworth - 6 - Played fairly well sweeping a fair bit up at the back.  Couple of excellent free kicks.
  • Ball - 5 - Didn't look arsed first half; got into it more in the 2nd with some good running at their defence.
  • Nyarko - 8 - Superb.  Great touch, passing, vision the works!
  • Hughes S - 5 - Disappointing.  He'll only be in contention for left-midfield on this display.
  • Gemmill - 6 - Showed that he has a great touch, did quite well until subbed, Hughes should have scored from his pass early in the game.
  • Hughes M - 5 - Wasted a golden opportunity early on, usual battling performance but no threat on the deck.
  • Jeffers - 4 - Crap, selfish performance, repeatedly lost the ball and failed to link up with Hughes or anyone else.  Anyone who says Smith has a problem with Franny, on this display I can see why.  Taking the piss.  Should have scored in the second half with an open goal.  Some power behind the ball and it was in.  If this continues he won't be long at Everton.

 Up to Reports Index ]
 Get yer tits out, Gazza!
Rob K
First visit to Elland Road for me.  I was quite surprised at how small it seems from the inside, with only one substantial stand.  It doesnt look its 40,000 capacity, and so is quite intimate with the crowd close to the action. 

We started well, dominating the first 20 minutes.  Missed a couple of good chances that we would later regret. Leeds scored slightly against the run of play, a Smith glancing header from a poorly defended corner.  Either Watson or Gemmill should have been putting some pressure on the kick-taker, instead they were by-standers, and to make matters worse we had no-one on the back post allowing Smith to score easily with a free header.

The second Leeds goal also came from a corner, this one was virtually unstoppable.  The corner was played out to beyond the penalty area, and Harte hit a ferocious first time volley which Gerrard did very well to save.  Unfortunately he could only divert it into the path of Smith (again) who scored an easy poacher's goal.

It sounds bad, it WASNT.  We made some mistakes in defence, for sure, but the team had a good balance about it and we played some great football.  We actually played the ball out of defence, and (whisper it) Unsworths distribution was intelligent and accurate.

The outstanding performance came from Nyarko.  He was a rock, I never once saw him dispossessed, he showed abundant skill, completed about 95% of passes, was strong in the tackle and generally ran the midfield.  This guy looks like a brilliant signing for us, hes twice the player Collins was (is).

The disappointing performance came from Jeffers.  He just wasnt there, he looked off the pace and lacking in confidence.  I suspect he may be rattled by the arrival of Ferguson, but you would hope this would have a galvanizing effect on him.

Other highlights for me were the performance of Michael Ball (looked as though he was enjoying himself), and believe it or not Scot Gemmill who gave a reasonable impression of a right winger.

Overall, the defence looks as though it will be OK but still needs some time to bed in.  Midfield looks exciting; in attack, we were shot-shy all afternoon, passing when we should have been shooting.

But I came away smiling from a 2-0 defeat, which says something about the game.  Some good crowd banter.  When Leeds scored their 2nd, the inevitable chants of going down, going down, going down started up, to which the response was immediate hes going down, hes going down, hes going, Woodgates going down.  BRILLIANT!  And you had to laugh at the Leeds fans chanting to Gascoigne as he was warming up get your tits out for the lads.

My scores for each player were:

  • Gerrard 7 Some good stops, but perhaps failed to command his defence 
  • Pistone 7 Looks promising, caught out of position a few times though. Good on the ball 
  • Watson 6 Linked up well at times with Gemmill, looked good coming forward but perhaps not so good defensively 
  • Weir 7 Good game,
  • Unsworth 8 Looks fitter and leaner than ever (perhaps its the haircut), hit some great free kicks, Sheedy-like distribution. 
  • Gemmill 8 Surprised me how at home he looked, faded a bit second half 
  • Nyarko 9 Almost a 10, brilliant performance marred only by nearly getting sent off in the first half for retaliation 
  • Stephen Hughes 7  A bit anonymous, as always, but quietly effective (I think?) 
  • Ball 8 Back in his old position wide on the left of midfield, he had a good game and looked sharp and above all (for him) keen. 
  • Mark Hughes 7 Had a typical Mark Hughes game, missed a sitter on 5 minutes, generally held the ball up quite well. Faded second half. Jeffers 5 Looked out of sorts, I would have subbed him.
  • Gascoigne 7 Looked good alongside Nyarko for the short time he was on, but a couple of reckless challenges (one which put Bakke out of the game).  Passed well, tried a few runs though midfield. 
  • Ferguson 7 Played a couple of defence splitting passes, definitely put the wind up Leeds when he came on they were on the back foot from then on. 
  • Moore 6 Didnt see too much of what he did, to be honest.

 Up to Reports Index ]
 No shame in losing here
Kevin O'Keefe
The start of a new season and as usual, optimism was in the air.  Elland Road hasn't been a happy hunting ground for us for a while (actually, all my life) but I genuinely thought we could get something from the game.  Leeds had some key players missing (notably Kewell) and we had a re-built side with some class at last.

We lined up with Gerrard in goal, Pistone, Unsworth, Weir and Steve Watson in defence.  The midfield had Nyarko and Stephen Hughes in the middle with Ball and Gemmill as unlikely wingers. Up front we started with Mark Hughes and Jeffers.

The early signs were good.  We had most of the possession in the early stages with Nyarko looking particularly impressive.  We went forward with confidence and should have scored when Mark Hughes was given the ball only 10 yards out after some good work by Gemmill.  However, instead of heading it into the corner, Sparky tried his trademark volley and hit it over.  It was a bad miss.  I'd like to see the replay on MOTD because I could be doing him an injustice but I think he should have done better.

As the game went on the share of play started to even out.  Leeds have some good players and punished us from a corner.  Steve Watson went to sleep, a short corner was taken quickly and the Leeds player was given time to whip in a great cross which Alan Smith nodded home.  It was a bad goal to give away and I got the feeling that we wouldn't get back in it after that.

The second Leeds goal came from a corner again.  The ball was crossed to the edge of the box where Ian Harte met it on the volley spectacularly.  You have to give credit to Harte for a great bit of skill and for Gerrard for pulling of a fantastic reflex save.  Unfortunately the rebound fell for Alan Smith who tapped it in.

I knew then the game was up and there was no coming back.  We had a few half chances and Unsworth went close with a couple of free kicks but that was about it.  The approach play was great but we didn't actually carve out a really good chance.

In the second half, Duncan came on to a rapturous reception (sorry but I love the big fella) and Gazza for the last 15 minutes.  Again, we had most of the possession but not much in the way of chances.  Jeffers went close after being put through by Duncan but it was tame effort and easily cleared off the line.  Nyarko had a glancing header from a Watson cross but it drifted just wide.  Towards the end, Gazza had a decent effort that might have gone in, but was deflected just past the post.  Leeds were content to just absorb the pressure and hit us on the break.  Gerrard was called into action a couple of times and made a superb diving save to tip over a seemingly unstoppable shot near the end.

To be honest, the best team won.  If we had got a goal back I always thought Leeds would up a gear and go and get another.  Still, there's no shame in losing at Elland road.  Better teams than Everton will come here and not get anything.  The real test is this Wednesday against Charlton.  If we play as we did today then we'll easily win.


  • Gerrard 7; A couple of great saves and no chance with either of the two goals.
  • Pistone 7; Looks a good buy.  His touch is good and he gets forward well.
  • Unsworth 6; Solid, but still likes to hoof it up-field and give the ball away (this was even before Duncan was on).
  • Weir 6; Was OK.  I thought he'd given away a penalty when he appeared to trip Alan Smith in the box (but I was set upon by my mates so I kept quiet after that).  I think he needs Gough next to him to tell him what to do.
  • Gemmill 6; Started well but faded as the game went on.
  • S Hughes 6; Doesn't get involved enough for me.  I know he looks accomplished on the ball but... well.... I'm not sure he's as good as everyone keeps telling me he is.
  • Nyarko 8; Everton MOM.  Great touch, great strength, great player.  Vieira without the attitude.
  • Ball 6; Tempted to give him a seven.  He did play out of position I suppose.
  • Jeffers 5; Ran around a lot, usually got muscled out of it once he got the ball.  Should be sub on Wednesday I think.  He seemed frightened to shoot as well.
  • M Hughes 7; Was actually very good.  Holds the ball up well, brings players into the game but missed a sitter.

Roll on Charlton.

 Up to Reports Index ]
Mickey Blue Eyes
Saturday morning was difficult for me.  It usually is when you've been up until 4:00 am yarning, quaffing liberally and doing far too much laughing.  You tend to ache all over.  The invoice, when it comes, is HEAVY.  Hence the state of me volcanic head and rounded shoulders.  Why do we DO those kind of things to ourselves?  

Still... bright sunshine, high, fluffy clouds, slight breeze off the river and, so help me, a BLUE River Mersey all helped to get me up to speed.  Which I did... first to Walton to collect Davo... and then to Orrell to collect cactus jack.  By the time we collected cj it was pissing down.  I think it is the Swedes who say, "If you don't like the English weather... wait a minute."  Never more true.  Ten minutes later it was bright, warm sunshine and it stayed like that for the rest of the day.

Davo navigated us to meet The Bus at Wakefield and from there we went by charrer to the ground.

It's been more or less rebuilt since I was last there.  Outside, the same cheapo tubular braced structure covered in grey wrinkly tin... the only saving grace being some round windows in the double-decker East Stand.  Inside, like ours, lamentably, a peculiar combination of old and new.  I was disappointed in it.  Looks better on TV than in the flesh.

We should be annoyed about losing this because it's the kind of win we need to announce we are finally BACK.  But we lost.  And we lost to two goals from corners.  In both cases the defence went to sleep.  I bet Smiffy plays the video to them relentlessly, soft bastards.  Schoolboy stuff, both.

We could and should have won it too  Not being silly or reactionary there.  It's an accurate observation.  In a good, fast, open game we had just as many chances as they did but Lady Luck, the bitch, was nowhere to be seen.  Yozzer 2 missed a volley in the very first minute when he shinned it.  Even then it just screamed over.

That's the way it was for most of our game.  Unsy had a couple of free kicks which took coats of paint off the posts too.  On another day they'll go in, probably when Nic and The Gravedigger are back and we are more forceful.

Most of our play and passing was keen and sharp... made the odd misdemeanour even more maddening.  In the end, we missed our MIAs more than they did.  Also our left flank was mysteriously wide open for most of the game.  Leeds dug in in the second half to preserve their lead but still managed to carve out some reasonable openings.

My man of the match by a LONG way was Nyarko.  This lad is sheer, unadorned CLASS, one of the most natural athletes I've seen.  He was simply magnificent.  Leeds had nobody remotely like him.

Paul Gerrard continued his stunning form of last season with shot stops of international class, if still a bit hesitant with crosses.  The full backs did well... even if Stevie had some awkward moments he won't give up easily.  Centre defence wasn't good enough... Weir-Unsy isn't a combo I much like... both goals came because the two of them seemed to be admiring the flight paths of local bird life.. pissy-offy in the extreme.

Midfield was iffy, except for Nyarko.  Scott Gemmill did OK and showed some surprising ball skills.  Bally was left midfield and, one terrific thudding tackle apart, made almost no impression.  One more of these, Mikey, and you won't be in midfield either, you're running out of options.  Yozzer 1 did next to nothing and looked vexed over something or other all match.

Up front was fuck all.  The Ears tried hard but was marked out of the game.  Even then he created a couple of chances... and missed the easiest of the game when he got round Big Nige and tried to roll it in instead of clipping home.  Aaaaarrgghh!  All afternoon we tried to walk the fucker in, instead of smacking it home.  Yozzer 2 spent his usual fractious afternoon upsetting everyone in sight, including young Woodgate, but that's all.

The Yin, Gazza and Joe-Max came on too late to change the flow of the game, hard though they tried. Gazza had one shot which hit a defender on the line. And that about summed it up.

So... annoying, not dispiriting.  A full side in place and somebody's gonna get murdered.  Trust me.

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 Smith double gives Leeds right start
James Mossop, Electronic Telegraph
TOO EARLY for the real glory days, but the surge of belief pulsing through Leeds United insists they will be there, taking a pop at the championship, nine months down the long, hard, winter's road.

Two goals by Alan Smith demolished Everton, who belatedly introduced yesterday's heroes, Paul Gascoigne and Duncan Ferguson, and a passing stranger would never have guessed that Leeds players of towering talent were confined to the treatment room.

With manager David O'Leary committing himself to six years of bright guidance and new signings settling in, these are happy days indeed with more than a promise of an entertaining return to the headiness of the Revie era.

Optimism was a flag on every pole as supporters cleared the shelves in the club shop and the sunshine of high summer bathed Elland Road.  Every man had his dream and at three o'clock all the fantasies were alive.

Mark Hughes, the greying old professional who retains the robustness of his youth with Manchester United and Barcelona, may have had the perfect start on his mind and came close to achieving it after three minutes.  These days he bustles and barges in the blue of Everton.  The skills are undiminished, too, and in that early moment he had drifted away from his markers to make a perfectly timed run to meet a right-wing cross delivered by Scot Gemmill.

Hughes' header was a goal-scoring effort of immense power, shaving the top of the bar and lifting the hearts of all those Evertonians behind Nigel Martyn's goal.  They sang again when David Unsworth curled a free kick into their laps when, for a moment, they thought it might be going in.

It was too early for Leeds to have any serious worries despite being weakened by the absence of Harry Kewell, Jason Wilcox, Stephen McPhail and Dominic Matteo and, after 16 minutes, Elland Road was a place of happiness.

Local lad Smith was everybody's hero.  Lee Bowyer pushed a short corner to Michael Bridges, who played the ball into the penalty area where Smith stooped and glanced a header past the bemused goalkeeper Paul Gerrard with all the impishness of Denis Law in his Sixties pomp.  Walter Smith may have had some awkward questions for his defenders at half-time.

The goal gave Leeds confidence and put Everton on the back foot, although Steve Watson used two feet to chop down Smith and collected his first yellow card of the season.  His foul may have been an indication of Everton's determination and no one could say they lacked ambition.  Their new signing, Ghanaian Alex Nyarko, frequently caught the eye with powerful runs from the deep and seemed to have struck up an understanding with his fellow midfielder Michael Ball, though Nyarko was cautioned for a foul on Olivier Dacourt.

Watson was not as telepathic in his understanding with Gerrard and was fortunate to see his misplaced back pass run wide.  It was simply the prelude to Smith's second goal after 38 minutes.

Bowyer drove a right-wing corner wide to Ian Harte, the man who makes a speciality out of a volleyed drive, and he launched a rocket that drew an astonishing, one-handed save from Gerrard.  No goalkeeper in the world could have held the ball and as it dropped, Smith was in to finish off the assault.

Walter Smith allowed the second half to run 12 minutes before turning to Ferguson, the striker who returned to Goodison Park from Everton last week in a move he described as "coming home".  He replaced midfielder Stephen Hughes and soon Gacoigne was warming up on the touchline but it was Joe-Max Moore, who came on after 64 minutes with Hughes going off.

While they were changing places, Francis Jeffers was being booked by referee for a foul on Dacourt.

The changes gave Everton a renewed sense of urgency.  Ferguson was on target when Alessandro Pistone gave him half a chance but he could get no power into the shot.  Still, they surged forward and Jonathan Woodgate was shown the yellow card for a foul on Moore as the tempo increased.

Gerrard made a brave save that denied Smith his hat-trick when he plunged at his feet, but the best chance of all fell to Everton's young striker Francis Jeffers.  Running on to a pass supplied by Ferguson, he took the ball round Leeds goalkeeper Martyn, and was horrified to see Lucas Radebe clear as it was about to cross the line.

Eventually Gascoigne, wearing No 18, came on after 75 minutes, with Gemmill leaving the field, and two minutes after his introduction he was was making the tackle that put Eric Bakke on a stretcher and gave Leeds the chance to bring on Darren Huckerby and Danny Mills, with Bridges departing alongside Bakke.

Gascoigne lost possession and in doing so almost set up a third goal for Leeds as they swept forward, with Huckerby crossing for Gerrard to make another fine save in keeping out Mark Viduka's header.  Otherwise, Gascoigne's skills remain high but, at times, the pace of the game seemed too quick for him.  He might have scored with a powerful shot that appeared on target until Harte deflected it for a corner.

Leeds head to Munich on Wednesday for the second leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie against 1860 with their confidence high and Smith in superb form.

Report © The Electronic Telegraph

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 O'Leary sparks hotshot Smith
by Louise Taylor, The Sunday Times

AS RECIPIENTS of his tongue lashings will testify, David O'Leary is not an easy man to argue with.  Indeed, when the Leeds manager had a reputedly animated confrontation something he euphemistically refers to as a "long chat" with Alan Smith this summer, the young striker apparently departed the Irishman's office in thoroughly chastened mood.  Yesterday Smith seized upon a perfect opportunity to finally answer his manager back, scoring both goals in a comfortable home victory which should serve as a morale booster ahead of Wednesday's tricky European Champions League trip to Munich 1860.

Presumably well aware he was probably only starting because Harry Kewell is injured, Smith would have been further galvanised by scanning the programme.  O'Leary who signed a lucrative new six-year contract before kick-off had used his manager's notes to opine that the 19-year-old "disappointed" last season.

Evidently taking the hint, Smith headed Leeds into a 16th-minute lead.  It followed a slickly worked manoeuvre involving Ian Harte confusing Everton at a short-corner routine.  Harte tapped the ball forward to Michael Bridges who crossed for Smith to apply the finishing, stooping touch from close range after ghosting in behind Everton's rearguard.

With Bridges and Smith operating either side of Mark Viduka and clearly relishing playing off the former Celtic target man, the visiting defenders did not always seem entirely sure who was meant to be picking up whom.

Everton, though, had very nearly assumed a second-minute lead when Mark Hughes connected with Scott Gemmill's cross only to see a characteristically ferocious volley fly fractionally over the bar.  Granted, David Unsworth went mighty close with a hallmark free kick but subsequently Leeds exerted increasing control.

Such dominance yielded a second goal for Smith after 38 minutes. Once again it was splendidly choreographed, Lee Bowyer despatching an outswinging corner from the right which was met by Harte, on the volley, 20 yards out.

The full-back's left-footed effort brought a superb one-handed save from Paul Gerrard, and Everton's goalkeeper did not really deserve to see the ball rebound to Smith who, making a late run from deep, burst past Viduka conveniently distracting markers on the blindside to register number two with another scoring header.

"We were practising and practising that routine in training on Friday and I was giving Lee Bowyer some stick because he just couldn't get it right," smiled O'Leary afterwards.

By now Everton were doing little right, their early confidence having evaporated in the Yorkshire sunshine.  Moreover, they were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men when Alex Nyarko, a summer acquisition from Lens, aimed a retaliatory kick from behind at Erik Bakke after taking violent exception to being tackled by the Norwegian.  Dermot Gallagher paused tantalisingly before reaching for his cards, but ultimately offered Nyarko a generous reprieve, flourishing yellow rather than red.

Intriguingly, Nyarko found himself in direct opposition to Olivier Dacourt, until this summer his midfield sidekick at Lens.  Dacourt, who played for Everton before briefly returning to his native France, is the enforcer O'Leary has bought to replace the injured David Batty.

Perhaps mindful of his previously appalling Premiership disciplinary record, he initially seemed a little tentative, allowing Nyarko the upper hand during the early exchanges.

This created a false impression, soon decisively rectified in the split second it took Dacourt to first dispossess and then dummy his old pal.  And when Dacourt and his new friends in the Leeds denial department required a little extra assistance, Smith was always on hand to help out, Mr "desperate to impress" beginning the second half in typically indispensable mode, clearing a Francis Jeffers shot off the line.

After connecting with a clever Viduka pass for a big man he possesses a pleasingly delicate touch inside Everton's area only to be cynically brought down by Unsworth, the hyperactive Smith had a penalty appeal dubiously rejected.  Clearly heeding O'Leary's strictures about the need to avoid turning himself into "a thug" he, creditably, took the referee's decision in his stride.

By contrast Walter Smith's mental composure must have been unravelling by the minute and he took this as the cue to introduce Duncan Ferguson, who had so controversially returned to Merseyside from Newcastle in midweek.

With Stephen Hughes making way, Everton rearranged themselves in a mirror image of Leeds's 4-3-3 formation.  Of the attacking trinity Jeffers always looked the most likely to score but, after collecting an earlier booking, he could count himself lucky to avert a premature wallow in the Radox after apparently stamping on Dacourt.

The Merseysiders were becoming frustrated by Leeds's relentlessly high-tempo game and had regular reason to be grateful to Alessandro Pistone's astute interceptions.

Encouragingly, Pistone boasts pace.  Unfortunately when Paul Gascoigne joined the fray in the 74th minute he quickly proved he no longer has the legs to live with Leeds, something emphasised when he was airily shrugged aside during a sweeping move concluding with Gerrard saving brilliantly from Viduka.  Admittedly he failed to score but Viduka did enough to suggest Elland Road regulars will soon stop pining for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd

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 Gascoigne now reduced to walk-on part
by Oliver Holt, The Times

SOME years ago, I drove to The Drill Field to chase down a hero.  It was a winter night and the home of Northwich Victoria was bathed in the low-watt gloom that non-league floodlights always seem to cast.  That half-light alone is warning that you have arrived at the margins, that you have stumbled upon a twilight world where striving and hopelessness mix in equal measure as footballers travel in opposite directions on ambition's road.

Shouts bounced around in the emptiness.  Some of the players were already clattering back into the changing-rooms after training, their steps and their banter echoing in the corridor.  Out on the pitch, a group of four or five jogged one last listless circuit.  To the right, a heavy-set man, still young, stood on the edge of the penalty area firing fierce shots at an unguarded net.

Eventually, Norman Whiteside turned away and ran a few laps of the now deserted pitch.  He had been one of the elite a few years earlier, the scorer of a sublime FA Cup Final winning goal for Manchester United in 1985, but injury had worn him down and forced him to retire when he should have been in his prime.  As he walked off, I asked if he could spare a couple of minutes, but he did not lift his head or say a word.  He disappeared down the corridor without breaking stride.

The thought of that night is still like a "saddening dream".  The phrase belongs to Martin Amis, taken from his recent book, Experience.  For all their glories and their millions, experience is all that really remains for a footballer, too, when the end of his career comes.  No matter how defiantly he fights, how deserving his cause, time warps him.  Age claims him.  It is just a case of whether he burns out, like Whiteside, or fades away.

Like Whiteside, Paul Gascoigne has arrived at Everton in the last throes of his career.  Burn-out at Whiteside's age might have destroyed him, but now Gascoigne is fading fast instead.  He has tried to ignore the passage of the years and now time's arrow has pierced him.  His career has been a saddening dream for too long, a gradual descent from the greatness that he clasped to himself during the 1990 World Cup and, perhaps, a year either side.  For the past two seasons at least, his appearances on the pitches that once were his empire have been nothing but a series of grotesque cameos.

If it seems a sin against football's rhythms to lament the ravages of time on the season's opening day, it is only because those of us who have long admired Gascoigne continue to hope, in the face of all logic, that he will stay mentally and physically fit long enough to enjoy the Indian summer that many crave for him.  This new dawn, granted him by Walter Smith, the Everton manager, will almost certainly be his last in the highest echelon of the English game.  If there is a reason to hope for some sort of renaissance, it is that Smith will be a shrewd custodian of the embers of a career he once cherished at Rangers.

Still, the waning of Gascoigne seemed particularly poignant at Elland Road on Saturday.  Under the guidance of David O'Leary, Leeds United are a team that epitomises the adventure and the fearlessness of youth.

Those, and the breathtaking ability to beat a man at will, were the qualities that once attached themselves to Gascoigne and made him the player we miss so badly now.

Gascoigne got 16 minutes against Leeds on his Everton debut.  Citing fitness levels debilitated by his final campaign with Middlesbrough, that was all Smith would trust him with.  Even in a team missing three first-choice midfield players, a team that will probably finish in mid-table, Gascoigne could still only make the substitutes' bench.  The days when he was an automatic choice have long gone.  Instead of a 10 or an 8, he will wear the number 18 on his back for the next nine months.

In that quarter of an hour, Gascoigne showed his football brain was as sharp as ever.  He hit the best pass of the game, driven over the top of the Leeds defence to Francis Jeffers, he linked well with Duncan Ferguson, also a second-half substitute, he might even have scored when David Unsworth rolled a free kick to him, but Ian Harte deflected his shot over the crossbar.

Several times, though, he was caught in possession by the fleet feet of Leeds.  He sometimes looks ponderous now, a sight that makes the heart heavy.  Saddest of all, he seems incapable of adapting his game, of admitting that he cannot do what he once did.  If he sat back and orchestrated, he could prolong his career but he cannot master the trick of conserving his energy.  It would be a shame if cameos, even improving cameos, are all that are left to him.

"Gazza is still a talent that the English game needs," O'Leary said after watching Alan Smith, the youngest and cheekiest of all his young guns, grab two headed goals to secure a comfortable win.  "His best days have gone.  There is no doubt about that, but hopefully Walter Smith can nurture what is left and allow him to go out on a high.

"I thought he would probably come on when the game slowed down but I don't want to remember him for coming on for 20 minutes at the end of matches for the next two years.  Only time will tell whether he is capable of more than that, but we have been talking about him in this vein for the last couple of seasons now.  Don't think the game is losing sleep over a desire for him to do well, though.  It is too hard a business for that."

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd



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